Bruce Chapman, head Disco. DJ, thinks we’re going through global cooling:
It certainly seems so this spring. Winter on the East Coast was grim and summer temperatures are hard to find now in the West. Snowfall also higher than in decades past. It doesn’t mean anything except this: there is (and should be) a real debate.
In fact, NASA found this to have been the hottest April on record, and the hottest January-April on record. Which is to say, this was not a notably cool spring. April also saw the lowest snowfall on record for that month.
In other words, it doesn’t matter that Chapman cannot distinguish climate from weather, or that the only research he cites was presented at a Heartland Institute-funded propaganda conference, because the facts he’s citing are simply wrong. Again.
30 years ago, a very young Josh Rosenau looked out the window of his parents house in Portland, Oregon, pointed at the volcanic ash settling on the trees and sidewalks, and explained: “ ‘cano!” Folks had been anticipating the eruption of Mt. St. Helens for weeks, some of them even eagerly urging the volcano to blow its top.
My dad, a reporter at Portland’s KGW‑8 TV station, covered the Mt. St. Helens eruption, flying with a camera crew to survey the mountain once it was safe to get close, and later reporting from inside the crater about the work geologists were doing to understand the volcano’s history and to better predict future eruptions.
Of all the destruction, the mudslides and abrasive ash and trees flattened into neat rows and roads covered in lava and lakes clogged with downed trees, the most moving story of that day 30 years ago remains the death of one man, geologist David Johnston. Johnston was on a ridge north of the volcano watching the growing bulge of magma, gathering data and trying to anticipate the mountain’s future. On the morning of May 18, he radioed to the temporary base station to warn them: “Vancouver, Vancouver! This is it!”
Rather than erupting upward, the blast moved sideways, toward Johnston’s observation post, obliterating the building within seconds. His body was never found, but the ridge from which he spoke those last words is now named in his honor, as is the USGS station in Vancouver that received that final report.
The CIA has a wall with stars to commemorate the deaths of its agents. Every town has a memorial to its young men who died in combat. It’s right and proper that the scientists who work to keep us safe are memorialized in a like manner. Observations like those Johnston was gathering have done wonders for planning safe evacuations before major eruptions. done wonders for planning safe evacuations before major eruptions.
For the last sixteen months the GOP has been screaming that government is evil, that it is the problem, that we need less regulation in order to be more productive, more profitable, and that rules and oversight aren’t needed because the free market will take care of things. You know what? If the booms [meant to keep the oil from spreading] aren’t “effective” and the resources of BP are “not adequate” to deal with a disaster of this magnitude, then why the hell are you letting them operate offshore oil rigs off of your coastline, you jagoff? You’re the Governor, Mr. State Sovereignty Teapublican guy. Stop the drilling until this disaster is resolved, and don’t start it until you can be sure it can’t happen again.
Folks, the hand of the free market just ripped a wellhead to pieces and is completely screwing over the Gulf. It’s going to cost several billion dollars to fix. I’m sick of people saying that the magical free market will be responsible and keep anything bad from happening. Well guess what? The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, this oil rig nightmare, and our economy back in 2008, they all got “fixed by the magical free market” where deregulation caused untold damage to our economy and hey, even killed people.
And now the Republicans are demanding that the government “fix the problem”? Screw you guys. Government is a lumbering vampiric dinosaur to you morons until you need the government to solve your problems for you. Then it’s “I demand the government does something about this!” And it’s the same Teabagger assclowns doing the loudest yelling and screaming.
Hypocritical assholes. Jindal, get your ass in gear and a mop and bucket and clean up your own mess.
This disaster has surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst oil spill ever, and it’s still spilling. Indeed, Joe Romm argues that “oil spill” doesn’t capture the situation properly. It’s “an undersea volcano of oil.” And part of the problem is that, not only did BP/Halliburton not install functioning safety equipment, and not only did the feds not mandate the use of equipment that’s standard in other countries with significant offshore drilling, but also apparently drilled deeper than was legally authorized.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declared that corporations are people. BP clearly committed nothing less than negligent homicide here, and probably a good deal worse. Louisiana has a death penalty, and likes to apply it in new and different ways. Maybe it’s time to give BP the chair. It’s not that hard, really. Just tear up its corporate charter, declare all its stock to be void, and seize all corporate assets. Give blameless employees a fair severance package from the seized assets, and let the executives deal with subsequent lawsuits without the benefit of salaries or corporate immunity.
Would a corporate death penalty have a deterrent effect? Heck yeah.
One of my colleagues from Scienceblogs.com.br contacted me a week or so ago to talk about creationists and global warming deniers, and I just checked and his story for Brazil’s largest paper is online. Frankly, I think I gave him one of my juicier quotes:
“Dos negacionistas do aquecimento global, a maioria Ã© motivada principalmente pelos negÃ³cios e pela polÃtica. Um nÃºmero chocante de pessoas parece se opor Ã ideia porque nÃ£o gostam de Al Gore. Muitos trabalham em empresas petrolÃferas ou pertencem a indÃºstrias que teriam de pagar pela mitigaÃ§Ã£o do aquecimento”, diz Rosenau. “EntÃ£o, creio que Ã© uma alianÃ§a entre conservadores religiosos e conservadores econÃ´micos. Descobriram tÃ¡ticas que funcionam e compartilham-nas livremente.”
Google renders that as:
“Of the deniers of global warming, most are motivated primarily by business and politics. A shocking number of people seem to oppose the idea because they do not like Al Gore. Many work in oil companies or belong to industries that would pay for mitigation warming, “says Rosenau. “So I think it is an alliance between religious conservatives and economic conservatives. Discovered tactics that work and share them freely.”
Though what I told him was more like:
Of the global warming deniers, most are motivated principally by business interest and politics. A shocking number of people seem to oppose global warming because they don’t like Al Gore! And many either work for oil companies or are in industries that would be asked to pay for policies that would mitigate global warming, so they try to argue that there is no problem because that way they don’t have to pay to solve it. â¦ This is a social, cultural, economic, and ultimately political alliance between religious conservatives and economic conservatives. They’ve found some tactics that work, and share them freely.
Lopes really reported the hell out of the story, talking to Francisco Ayala, Brazilian biologist Sandro de Souza, and Brazilian creationists EnÃ©zio de Almeida Filho and Michelson Borges, and bringing in the stolen emails from Climategate, James Inhofe, the Discovery Institute, the South Dakota legislature, and Richard Lindzen’s anti-ID/anti-global warming remarks reported at TfK.
Learn Portuguese and read it.
Nicholas Beaudrot defends the (second) bag fee against Atrios’s opposition to any fees, and against Matt Yglesias’s defense of all fees for checked luggage. Atrios rightly notes that the fees are part and parcel of the generally crappy air travel experience, Matt argues that the fees discourage excessive packing, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of travel. Nick replies that Matt’s economic analysis fails to consider shifts from checked luggage to carry-on:
bag fees on the first bag encourage two behaviors:
Travelers pack the largest bag they think they can carry on to the plane. This results in higher boarding and de-planing times as they struggle to put their bags in overhead compartments. â¦
Travelers pack a large bag and expect the flight attendants to deny them the chance to carry it on. But, they don’t (can’t?) charge you for bags they force you to check at the gate. As more and more people figure this out, it will become the norm, and airlines will either be forced to abandon the fee for the first bag, or start charging people at the gate, which means they’ll have to start charging you for checking the stroller, which means the airlines hate children, Congress will intervene, &c.
Air travel would be faster (and therefore better for the airlines) and more pleasant (and therefore better for the airlines) if airlines charged fees for checking the second bag. Charging fees for checking the first bag is probably a loser for the airline.
Because planes are least efficient during takeoff and landing, short flights (less than 300 miles, say) are up to three times more carbon-intensive than longer flights (transcontinental or transoceanic flights). Flying from San Francisco to LA is almost surely less carbon-efficient than driving, and probably takes no less time. Bring a colleague, friend, or family member, and it’s sure to be cheaper and to have a lower per-capita carbon footprint. Such short-haul flights are typically short stays, and anything that raises the price of such short, inefficient flights, is a good thing. As is Supertrain, which we can hope to get big federal dollars to help construct. A high-speed rail line would be about as fast as a plane, and would get you from downtown to downtown, making it potentially faster door-to-door. Much lower emissions, fewer baggage restrictions, and no onerous screening for nail files and scissors.
As Nick observes, charging for a second bag makes plenty of environmental and economic sense. It really does add to the cost of flying, and there’s no reason that people traveling for a week should subsidize the few people traveling for longer, or traveling with lots of stuff (touring musicians, families with small kids, people moving).
And he’s absolutely right about the overhead bins. The hassle and danger of checking luggage was always a disincentive to check bags. How long did you have to wait to heave your bag off the belt? How many people would you have to elbow to get to the belt when your bag arrived? Would you have to elbow them again to put it back when you realized it was someone else’s black rollaboard? Would the zipper have been destroyed by the TSA screener investigating (and perhaps borrowing) your clothes?
So the overhead bins always filled fast, but now it’s simply a race to get onboard and put your bag in the bin. Someone will surely have to gate-check a bag, and no one wants to be stuck waiting on the jetway to get their bags. So it takes longer to get on the plane, the bins are overstuffed, and getting off the plane takes longer, too. Especially if someone at the front of the plane had to leave their bag at the back.
It’s a simple truth that people travel with luggage. You need clothes, at least. If people are doing the responsible thing and restricting their air travel to long trips to places too far away for car travel to be time- and carbon-efficient, we shouldn’t force them to pay extra just to avoid being stinky.
In 1925, John Scopes was tried and convicted of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act. His trial was ginned up as a constitutional test case by the ACLU and as an economic stimulus plan for the town of Dayton, TN. The trial was promoted as “the trial of the century,” celebrity lawyers were recruited for both sides, and the town did all it could to attract journalists and onlookers.
The trial wound up famously embarrassing William Jennings Bryan, who died shortly after the trial, and before an appellate court overturned the conviction he won on a technicality. While laws like the Butler Act stayed on the books for decades (an enduring legacy of Bryan’s lobbying efforts), H. L. Mencken’s sharp reporting on creationism ultimately left the notion of creationism fatally wounded, labelled as the province of yokels and fools.
For some reason, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to put science on trial again, this time focusing on climate science:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.
Chamber officials say it would be “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” — complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.
“It would be evolution versus creationism,” said William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. “It would be the science of climate change on trial.”
The goal of the chamber, which represents 3 million large and small businesses, is to fend off potential emissions regulations by undercutting the scientific consensus over climate change. If the EPA denies the request, as expected, the chamber plans to take the fight to federal court.
I don’t know why they would compare their position to that of Bryan in the Scopes trial, trying to disprove established science. Bryan lost that argument, and made sure that a sympathetic judge excluded scientific testimony wherever possible. And of course, those who worked so hard to put science on trial ultimately experienced the backlash when examination showed them to be ill-informed on the science, appealing to anti-intellectualism rather than evidence.
Furthermore, the Chamber of Commerce isn’t doing themselves any favors by blocking action on climate change. Big retailers like Walmart have been making an effort to reduce their carbon footprint because it saves them money. Establishing a cap-and-trade system would even let especially efficient companies develop new revenue streams, while also expanding the US export base by developing cutting edge green industries.
Instead, the Chamber is out to make themselves look bad, analogizing themselves to the anti-science Bible-thumpers of the early days of fundamentalism, and to delay a policy which would ultimately help their members.
Roger Pielke, Jr. is a respected scholar of science policy, but he’s got a contrarian streak a mile wide that gets him into trouble occasionally, as for instance his feud with Joe Romm of Climate Progress. It is also apparent in his survey of a fight over oyster farming off the coast of Point Reyes. His title, “The War on Science Continues” is, he insists, “a bit of irony, of course, as there never has been a ‘war on science,’ just politics as usual, sometimes played more hardball than others, especially by the previous Administration.”
His example of an ongoing war on science involves oyster farms in an area designated as Potential Wilderness. In the ’70s, the owner sold the land to the Park Service and the farm operates under a license scheduled to end in 2012. The NPS chose not to renew the lease for various reasons, and the farmers are fighting, enlisting their Senator in support. Various environmental groups back the NPS. Based on the report (as quoted in Senator BoxerFeinstein’s letter), Pielke concludes:
So a federal agency is said to have “selectively presented, over-interpreted, or misrepresented the available scientific information” in support of decisions desired by interest groups closely aligned with that agency. One wonders, where are the “war on science” folks these days?
Right here, and frankly puzzled. Pielke is a smart guy, and I don’t know why he would see a parallel between this and the abuses surrounding stem cell policy, the Plan B decision, or the Bush administration’s handling of global warming, among others.
In those cases, scientists were excluded from the policy process, their reports were rewritten by political hacks to reflect the party line, or the science was flatly misrepresented to overstate the existing scientific understanding.
Setting aside that none of that has been shown to go on in this instance, the reports being critiqued date from 2007 at the latest. Which is to say, they are from the Bush years. So if it is an instance of the war on science, it’d hardly require that we stop calling it a “Republican war on science.”
More substantively, Pielke’s echo of BoxerFeinstein’s letter itself misrepresents the NAS report. Here is the context of the quotation he offers (bolded for clarity):
While NPS in all versions of Drakes Estero: A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary accurately depicted the ecological significance and conservation value of Drakes Estero, in several instances the agency selectively presented, over-interpreted, or misrepresented the available scientific information on potential impacts of the oyster mariculture operation. Consequently, Drakes Estero: A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary did not present a rigorous and balanced synthesis of the mariculture impacts. Overall, the report gave an interpretation of the science that exaggerated the negative and overlooked potentially beneficial effects of the oyster culture operation.
This is bad, but not quite the same as what Chris Mooney ably documented in The Republican War on Science. Several drafts of the NPS document were posted between October, 2006 and May, 2007. In July, 2007, that document was removed from the NPS website (after less than a year in circulation), and two days later, the first of two documents correcting errors was posted. The NAS continues:
NPS has issued two documents correcting and clarifying Drakes Estero: A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary—“Acknowledgment of Corrections to Previous Versions of the Park News Document Drakes Estero: A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary” posted on July 25, 2007, and the September 18, 2007 document, “National Park Service Clarification of Law, Policy, and Science on Drakes Estero”. The Clarification document represents the most accurate NPS release of science relating to mariculture impacts; although, this document does not fully reflect the conclusions of this committee.
The NAS does not appear to regard those disagreements as illegitimate or rising to the same level of inaccuracy or misrepresentation as the earlier document.
The core claim about the Republican war on science was not that bad science, or inaccurate understandings of science, are occasionally used as the basis for decision-making. If it were, Pielke’s case would be made, but he must go further, and show that the science or the scientific process was intentionally twisted to achieve a desired policy result. The NAS explains why they think the NPS issued a document misstating or overstating the science:
It appears that hasty responses to local stakeholder concerns by NPS led to the publication of inaccuracies and a subsequent series of retractions and clarifications during this process from 2007–2008, which cast doubt on the agency’s credibility and motivation. A lack of coordination among the multiple agencies regulating the mariculture operation also gave mixed messages to stakeholders, fueling the controversy.
In other words, there’s no evidence of malice, just a desire to respond speedily to a situation given limited data (and limited resources). The NAS adds (echoing one of Pielke’s refrains):
The ultimate decision to permit or prohibit a particular activity, such as shellfish farming, in a particular location, such as Drakes Estero, necessarily requires value judgments and tradeoffs that can be informed, but not resolved, by science. Science describes the effects (differences in outcomes) that can be expected with and without shellfish farming in Drakes Estero, the level of uncertainty given current knowledge about these effects, and approaches to assess and balance potential risks and benefits. Because stakeholders may reasonably assign different levels of priority or importance to these effects and outcomes, there is no scientific answer to the question of whether to extend the RUO for shellfish farming. Like other zoning and land use questions, this issue will be resolved by policymakers charged with weighing the conflicting views and priorities of society as part of the decision-making process.
If the process is twisted so that the scientific inputs are erroneous, that is evidence of a war on science. It is not evidence of a war on science to say that people made judgment calls based on limited data. The NAS later addresses the difficulty of making evidence-based assessments given minimal data.
With regard to addressing the risk of ecological effects, NPS’s Management Policies prioritize the protection of natural resources, including circumstances where the available scientific information contains substantial uncertainty: “In cases of uncertainty as to the impacts of activities on park natural resources, the protection of natural resources will predominate”. This policy could be applied to permitting decisions before 2012 as well as providing an environmental rationale for not extending the 40-year term of the [lease] that was granted upon the Johnson’s sale of the property to NPS in 1972.
In other words, regardless of the misstatements and overstatements (which NPS corrected), the NPS has scientifically valid reasons to deny renewing the lease. BoxerFeinstein never quoted that judgment, nor did Pielke.
Pielke and BoxerFeinstein also ignored the NAS’s warning about the importance of fully funding the NPS’s research efforts:
The lack of sufficient resources in NPS to support the research required to harmonize the facilitation of public use and enjoyment of the parks with the preservation of environmental and cultural assets is a national problem. The availability of sufficient resources to assess environmental impacts of management alternatives and to fund rigorous scientific review of NPS documents prior to release could have provided sufficient information to avoid over-interpretations and misstatements of science, such as those that appeared in the NPS depictions of oyster farm impacts in the Drakes Estero case.
In short, the overstatements and misstatements result, not from malice or political desire, but from lack of information. And that lack of information is a result of the underfunding of NPS’s (and other agencies’) mission to research the factors threatening sensitive habitats and endangered species.
Given that failure to support policy-relevant research, the NPS concludes:
there is a lack of strong scientific evidence that shellfish farming has major adverse ecological effects on Drakes Estero at the current levels of production and under current operational practices, including compliance with restrictions to protect eelgrass, seals, waterbirds, and other natural resources. … Importantly from a management perspective, lack of evidence of major adverse effects is not the same as proof of no adverse effects nor is it a guarantee that such effects will not manifest in the future.
If one is looking for a war on science, the denial of this permit is hardly a good example. But the consistent underfunding of research that would better inform this decision-making does fall into that rubric. During the Bush years, biologists with BLM and other agencies were assigned desk duty processing paperwork for oil and gas leases, specifically to keep them out of the field and to prevent research on endangered and threatened species.
At a just concluded press conference, Governor Mark Parkinson announced he has reached an agreement with Sunflower Electric Power Corporation that will allow for the construction of a brand new massive coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kansas.
Parkinson will allow air quality permit that had been blocked by Kansas Department of Heath and Human Services Secretary Rob Bremby to be issued and pave the way for the construction of one one 895 megawatt plant provided the Kansas Legislature passes a bill that provides for a laundry list of green energy law, including, but not limited to, workable net metering, revised renewable energy standards, and new energy efficiency standards.
For Sunflower’s part, they only require the Legislature include in their legislation stipulations that make sure the Secretary of the Department of Health and Environment must be stripped of his power to ever again act as he did when he blocked the construction of the Holcomb plants in the first place.
Governor Sebelius blocked the construction of plants near Holcomb, citing their environmental effect, especially their impact on global warming. Most of the power from the plants would not go to Kansas, but to Colorado.
Parkinson is the former chairman of the Kansas Republican party, and switched parties to become Lieutenant Governor to Sebelius, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. It isn’t clear that Parkinson has really moved as far into the Democratic fold as I might like.
Coal is the past, and Kansas needs to prepare for the future. Governor Sebelius blazed the trail, and dragged the state toward a brighter, cleaner future. When Montana’s Brian Schweitzer spoke at Washington Days shortly after Sebelius’ nomination was announced, he quoted President Obama’s observation that “change will not be easy. He said all will have to give something. In Kansas, you’ll have to give your governor.”
I just hope her replacement leaves something for her to come back to.
I highlighted a story the other day in which Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu revealed that his security detail does not allow him to bike or ride public transit to work. I pointed out that New York’s Mayor Bloomberg rides the subway to work, and he’s not the only transit-riding mayor.
Berkeley’s Tom Bates is, as the SF Chronicle puts it, “trading in his 2001 Volvo for an AC Transit pass and a sturdy pair of walking shoes.” He explains: “I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint to the absolute minimum. I figure, if I really want to go someplace I can just rent a car.”
Speaking to UC Berkeley’s Daily Cal, the climate action coordinator for the Berkeley-based Ecology Center hopes that “By giving up his car, Bates sets an example to the community that reducing one’s ecological footprint is possible, [Debra] Berliner said. ‘When someone like Mayor Bates … models and really walks the talk, it really makes it easier and makes it more do-able and accessible for all other community members.”
Bates tells the Chronicle that it wasn’t an easy choice. “A car represents freedom,” he said. “For a long time I kept thinking, how would I really feel about getting rid of it? Finally I just came to the conclusion that keeping the car was ridiculous. It was just depreciating in my driveway.”
San Francisco’s mayor, now officially a candidate for governor, is working on similar green cred. The Chronicle explains that:
Gavin Newsom rides in a hybrid police car for city business, and on weekends he drives his all-electric Tesla Roadster.
He also rides Muni incognito, disguised in a baseball cap, and walks when he can, said his spokesman Nathan Ballard.
Those who haven’t been swept up in Newsom’s media blitz may find it odd that a baseball cap would suffice to render him incognito. But Gavin Newsom is recognizable principally because of his hair (and his enormous height). (Cf. this and that and the other.)
Meanwhile, the Chronicle reports that perennially tonedeaf Oakland mayor Ron Dellums “is chauffeured in a Lincoln Town Car, according to press reports. A 2009 Town Car gets 19 miles to the gallon, according to Edmunds auto guide.”
What’re you doing for Earth Day.